The following article shares highlights and insights from one of our Expert Series events, which are exclusive for Young Scholars and their parents. These tips are aimed at students who are interested in how to create and present research posters to an academic and general audience.
In this presentation, we discussed strategies for organizing and displaying your research. Research posters rely on two factors: 1) visual clarity and 2) in-person/virtual presentation. To address the first factor, we discussed the need to understand poster structure and deciding on the best method to present your particular data. The panels on your poster must tell a clear story with or without you present. We covered color schemes, readability, word counts / word choice, and brevity. To address the second factor, we discussed the “elevator pitch” – a two-three minute talk you give that succinctly describes your research. This brief talk requires that you engage the audience, speak clearly, and limit your talk to the most essential points of your research.
To accomplish both tasks (visual clarity and presentation), we reviewed the most common methods of creating and structuring a poster through Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides. We reviewed how to set up a poster with the appropriate dimensions and how to add text and images efficiently, along with common font sizes for different aspects of the poster. We analyzed posters that I had delivered in the past as well as good and bad examples of posters from other authors.
Top Tips for Students Interested in Creating and Presenting Research Posters
- Brevity – for posters, fewer words are generally better
- Bullet points – you only want the most relevant material on your poster
- Clear structure – your poster should be easily readable even if you are not present to guide the viewer
- Simple color choices – do not overwhelm your reader with lots of colors, which can hinder your structure
- Practice – your presentation will come down to your familiarity with the material. Practice well in advance of your presentation and get advice and feedback from mentors and friends – especially people outside of your field to ensure you do not rely on jargon.
Things Students Can Do to Explore This Topic Further
Students should learn by doing! Make a poster of your research for a class project or extra credit. The best way to learn to give presentations is to give them. There are many online resources that you can find simply by searching for “scientific poster.” A reliable resource for writing abstracts to present at conferences and making posters, see the American Geophysical Union website. There are tips and guidelines there as well as plenty of additional resources. Though this website has to do with my field (geosciences), the guidelines are universal.
Here are additional resources:
- American Journal Experts: 8 Ways to Create a more Powerful Research Poster
- AGU Blogosphere: On the Job: Creating a Scientific Poster in PowerPoint: A Video Tutorial
- The Geological Society of America: Strategies for Creating a Conspicuous, Effective, and Memorable Poster Presentation
- PLOS Computational Biology: Ten Simple Rules for a Good Poster Presentation
- American College of Physicians: Preparing a Poster Presentation
- Penn State University: Design, Examples, and Templates
- Former Swarthmore College Professor: Designing Conference Posters
Authored by: Josh Culpepper
Bio: Josh Culpepper is a doctoral student of hydrology at the Desert Research Institute and University of Nevada, Reno. He studies the physical ramifications of climate change on mountain lakes. He has presented at numerous conferences, including an invited talk American Geophysical Union Chapman Conference and the Association for the Sciences for Limnology and Oceanography.